New EU sanctions target over 100 Iranian firms
BRUSSELS - The European Union on Thursday agreed to sanction more than 100 Iranian companies, sharply expanding existing measures against Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.
Diplomats said the "significant expansion" in EU sanctions was expected to be approved and announced Monday by the bloc's 27 foreign ministers.
Among the firms blacklisted are a German-based Iranian-owned bank believed to be involved in the Islamic republic's secret nuclear weapons' programme, the European-Iranian Trade Bank (EIH).
An official in Berlin said this week that "evidence pointing to the EIH's involvement in (nuclear) proliferation has multiplied and become tangible."
Five individuals are also to be hit by the new sanctions, diplomats said.
Citing unnamed Western officials, the Wall Street Journal last year said the EIH bank had done more than a billion dollars of business on behalf of firms subject to US, UN and EU sanctions.
In June last year, the UN Security Council slapped a fourth set of sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment work, the most sensitive part of Tehran's atomic drive.
The UN sanctions authorise states to conduct high-seas inspections of vessels suspected of ferrying banned items to Iran and added 40 entities to a list of people and groups subject to travel restrictions and financial sanctions.
EIH's business partners are said to include units of Iran's Defense Industries Organization, the Aerospace Industries Organization and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.